A Transformative Election

A study group with IOP Fellow Lois Romano

The 2008 election is the most intense, expensive, exciting and longest presidential campaign in modern history, creating significant ramifications for policy, campaign spending, Congressional elections and media strategy. As the candidates slug it out over such issues as race and gender, we are given an unprecedented opportunity for a real-time examination of the challenges facing candidates.

Presidential elections are a combination of voters, issues, and candidates simultaneously playing out on both the national and local stage. The issues are framed nationally, but the votes are cast on a state-by-state basis, creating a continuous interplay throughout the campaign between national and local issues. The goal of this study group is to explore the various elements of 2008 presidential campaign, giving the students a sophisticated understanding of how a campaign is designed and executed, as well as an appreciation of the numerous players and other forces that will all have an influence on who is the next president of the United States.

February 12: Overview by Fellow

This study group will address the overarching issues and themes of the 2008 campaign and the objectives each candidate will have in shaping the issues in the most advantageous ways. The subjects will include impact of the war in Iraq and other foreign policy issues, as well as domestic concerns such as the economy and health care. The class will also explore a key theme of this campaign: balancing between the public’s desires for change and inspiration against the desire for experienced leadership in a dangerous world. Students will be challenged to see that the same issue can be articulated in different ways as a means of developing support for the candidate or undermining support for the opposing candidate. February 19: Winning the Electoral College.

This study group will focus on the state-by-state dimension of the presidential campaign as candidates allocate time and political resources to capture 268 Electoral College votes. Based on history and current voting patterns, the results can often be predicted in more than 30 states. Accordingly, the focus will be on the critical swing states and how each campaign is developing ways to gain a local, and deciding, advantage. We’ll look at the winner- take- all system, the effect of putting controversial social issues on the ballot (e.g. same sex marriage) as a means of turning out the conservative base, and efforts to chill turnout by the opposition by making access to the voting booth more difficult. Guests: Democratic consultant Jenny Backus and senior McCain strategist Steve Schmidt—two of the hottest young operatives in politics today.

February 26: Race and Gender

Voting blocks have always been tracked by presidential campaigns—but never have they been as critical as they are in the 2008. This study group will explore how one or all of these demographic groups—women, youth and minoritiescould end up deciding this election, and show how unpredictable any one voting segment can be. The Clintons have long enjoyed overwhelmingly strong support in the African American community. However, the candidacy of Barack Obama has undermined that support. The way in which the candidates deal with this issue will affect a significant constituency in the fall.

Moreover, after being unpopular with women throughout her public life,

Clinton is demonstrating an ability to dominate the female vote. Barack Osama and John McCain are running strong with young people.whethr this energy holds up in the general elections is on certain.

Guest: Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and Vice Dean for the Clinical Programs. Ogletree is a prominent legal scholar who has written extensively on races issues in this country.

March 7 (Friday): Congress and its Role in the Presidential race.

Congress can either be seen as a vehicle for shaping the campaign agenda, or – with its record low approval ratings—as an albatross for the presidential candidates. At the same time, congressional candidates want to hold tight the coattails of a popular candidate, but will ensure there is a distance if the candidates cause home state problems.

Guest: Rep Rahm Emanuel—the architect of the House Democrats return to power— talk about where Congress fits into the 2008 landscape and whether Democrats will retain power

March 11: Special Interests

This study group will examine how special interests devoted to specific constituencies or use money and to influence the process. This will cover how the money is raised, and how it is spent to maximize reach—political advertising, get out the vote and other forms of political communications. In particular, we will look at how outside groups develop specific negative message themes and how these messages relate to the mainstreams campaigns from which they are supposed to remain independent. The most prominent example of this are the socalled 527s – named f0r a provision in the tax code -which operate with virtually with far fewer federal spending restrictions.

Guest: Elaine Kamarck, public policy lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government, former White House aide

April 1: Media: Role and Impact

This session will focus on the constant competition between candidates for free positive media, and the ongoing battle between the candidates and the media over the message.

Candidates are constantly trying to shape their coverage by either defining their opponents or creating their own tableau. Third-tier candidates complained about the lack of coverage in process that has become celebrity- driven making in nearly impossible to be heard early in the process.

Guests:HowardKurtz, host of CNN’s media show, “Reliable Sources,” and former fellow and Washington Post editor Maralee Schwartz.

April 8: Politics of the Vice Presidential Selection Process

After the nominees of each party have been virtually determined by the primaries, we will look at political considerations that shape the selection of the vice-president candidate, the importance of the timing of the announcement, and what each candidate is trying to achieve.

Historically, vice-presidential candidates were been selected to provide a geographical balance to the ticket. This paradigm was abandoned in 1992 when Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton selected Al Gore from the neighboring state of Tennessee. The intent was to present a youthful and dynamic team, consistent with the central change theme of the presidential campaign. It can be expected that in this exceptional year, there will be many unconventional possibilities. For example, it would have been unheard of in years past for a black and a women (from the same state no less) to run as a team, but more and more we hear the possibility of a Clinton Obama ticket.

Guests: Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, who was considered for VP in 2000, with George Bush; and Democratic pollster Peter Hart.

APRIL 15: Impact on Future Agenda of the Nation:

The issues debated, priorities articulated, the solutions proposed all combine to form the policy initiatives that will propel the incoming administration. How the relationship between politics and policy unfolds and what it tells us about the future will be the subject of this class. We look at both specifics and expectation— i.e. health care, war policy, and supreme court selections- as well as what will not happened based on campaign promises.

Guest: Gregory Craig, senior Advisor to Barack Obama on foreign policy, who brokered Ted Kennedy’s endorsement.